Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Sugar Huddle

Posted by admin April - 19 - 2016 - Tuesday

I’ve had any number of requests from my fellow Wing T coaches about our “Sugar Huddle” which we ran so effectively this past season. For those of you who want to “go fast” but… still like to huddle, the Sugar Huddle may be just what you’re looking for!

Let me preface by saying that I think that one of the most overlooked aspects of attacking defenses is the use of “Tempo.” I know that “playing FAST” has become the hot, sexy way to roll on offense. I see nothing wrong with that except… if you only play at one tempo, defenses are going to “catch up” to you. I always use the baseball pitcher analogy. If I have a great fastball pitcher and all he ever throws is “smoke.” Eventually the good hitters are going to sit on his fastball and rock it out of the park. However, if my pitcher still has that great fastball but… mixes in a nasty change up and/or curve, now those hitters have a major problem! It’s the CHANGING OF THE SPEEDS that keeps the batter off balance! The same is true with defenses in football. I have come to realize that you can keep a defense “off balance” by changing up the tempo. Thus, we have 4 different “packages”; i.e., alignments, and each of them moves at a different speed.

Our base package (that we run the majority of the time) is our under center Delaware Wing T formation. This is when we utilize our “sugar huddle.” When we go Spread Shotgun Wing T, we go no huddle— though it is not necessarily a hurry up package! Our Shotgun Wing T is also no huddle but not hurry up. However, when we go to our goal line/short yardage package, our Spinner S’Wing T, we are warp speed. We run on the field, line up and snap it on 1st sound every time. We have caught a bunch of folks unprepared and got an easy score or first down because we’re going so fast. But, the other packages and their slower tempo is like novocaine: they “lull you to sleep!”

Our Sugar Huddle came out of a discussion with a coaching friend in NC. He told me of a team they played that huddled at the regular 5 yard distance from the ball but, when they broke the huddle, they literally SPRINTED to the line!!! Got down fast and snapped it before you could 1) recognize strength and thus 2) get aligned properly on defense! I saw the benefit of this and we started working on it with our kids. My hat goes off to that coach who could get his kids to SPRINT to the line each time because our kids went “passive/aggressive” on me and, like a stubborn mule, refused to buy in! Phase 1: failure!

Then, watching Auburn roll through opponents with their version of the Wing T and playing fast… and faster! I noticed that occasionally (mostly in the red zone) they huddled. But… they were right behind the line! The QB would call the play, send the wide receivers scampering to their spots… then break the linemen. They simply whirled around in their stance and got down. Hummmmm?? I bet I can get our linemen to “move fast” if they only have to take a step or two!!! So Phase 2: Implementing the speed of the Sugar Huddle. They LOVED it!

What I realized as I watched it is: we can go even faster if our SE doesn’t have to huddle. We love to play him “Strong”— which puts him on the same side as the TE and Wing. This “unbalanced” look creates problems for defenses who are simply trying to align to our Wing back! I signal in ALL of our plays (*If you would like a copy of the doc which explains our Signaling System, email me at lzj...@verizon.net. I’ll be glad to send it to you.) As a play ended and the whistle blew, the SE looked to me to see which side I wanted him to line up on. I pointed and he took off. Now, it required our SE’s to also learn my signaling system cuz they had to get the play on their own. I’m “dating” myself (and any of you young guys… unless you’re a real college football historian.. will not remember this!) but… Army, in the early 60’s ran what became known as “The Lonesome End” formation. Their SE never huddled. I believe he always went to the same side but that thought stuck in my head so that’s what our SE became: The “Lonesome End.”

After I pointed/signaled the side for the SE, I then signaled in the formation and play to the QB. He stepped into the huddle, called the play once… broke the huddle and the line “whirled around,” got down and as soon as the backs got aligned… we were rolling! Interestingly, it was the backs now that I had to “encourage” to move quickly to their spots! A few “reminders” worked wonders.

A lot (but not always) of the time we would snap the ball on 1st Sound and go! However, I shifted and motioned some too! We wanted to continue to “dictate” to the defense— and not let them force us to do something we didn’t want to do. Getting aligned quickly solved that. Then “jumping around with motion or shifts caused more “heartburn” for the defenders!

The Sugar Huddle AND the different tempo’s with our other packages kept opposing defenses off balance all season. Even the best-coached teams that we played had trouble with trying to organize as we changed packages. If one wasn’t working, we’d try another. Surprisingly, in one game where we were simply out-manned personnel-wise, we went to our goal line package at midfield; picked up the tempo and started moving the ball effectively for the first time in the game. It was late in the 3rd quarter and we mounted a comeback. Unfortunately, too little — too late! But it showed me that different tempo’s coupled with different packages can be the great equalizer!

The Sugar Huddle gave us an advantage in keeping defenses off balance and thus, tentative. In my mind, that’s how your want to do to a defense: take away their aggressiveness. They had to hurry up (and we caught them unprepared) to align to us the way they wanted. It is a great way to “go fast” yet still have the comfort zone of huddling!

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